Read my latest article: 8 things I look for in a Ruby on Rails app (posted Thu, 06 Jul 2017 16:59:00 GMT)

Tracking AJAX-driven events in Ruby on Rails for Google Analytics conversion goals

Posted by Wed, 21 Oct 2009 17:09:00 GMT

Tracking your KPI’s is extremely important in your online venture. At a minimum, you should be using something like Google Analytics to track conversions in your application. Setting up goals is actually quite simple, especially if you’re just tracking that specific pages are loaded. However, if some of your conversion points occur through AJAX, you might not be capturing those activities in Google Analytics.

Lucky for you, it’s actually quite simple to update this. I thought I’d show you a fairly simple example to help you along.

On our web site, we have a mini contact form at the bottom of many of our pages. When submitted, if JavaScript is enabled, it’ll perform an Ajax request to submit the form. If you fill out the main Get in Touch form that gets processed and we redirect people to a thank you page. The URL for that is unique and we’re able to track those in Google Analytics quite easily.

However, with the Ajax-form, the URL in the browser isn’t going to change so Google Analytics isn’t going to track that conversion. So, we needed to track that properly.

To do this, we just need to call a JavaScript function that the Google Analytics code provides you.

  pageTracker._trackPageview("/contact_requests/thanks");

Let’s look at some simple code from our controller action. If the request is from JavaScript, we currently replace the form area with the content in a partial. (note: if you’re curious about the _x, read Designers, Developers and the x_ factor)

  respond_to do |format|
    format.html { redirect_to :action => :thanks }
    format.js do
      render :update do |page|
        page.replace :x_mini_contact_form_module, :partial => 'mini_contact_form_thanks'
      end
    end
  end

As you can see, the redirect will within the format.html block will lead people to our conversion point. However, the format.js block will keep the user on the current page and it’ll not trigger Google Analytics to track the conversion. To make this happen, we’ll just sprinkle in the following line of code.

  page.call 'pageTracker._trackPageview("/contact_requests/thanks");'

However, if you need to do something like this in several locations in your application, you might want to just extend the JavaScriptGenerator page. GeneratorMethods. (you could toss this in lib/, create a plugin, etc…)

  module ActionView
    module Helpers
      module PrototypeHelper
        class JavaScriptGenerator #:nodoc:
          module GeneratorMethods
            # Calls the Google Analytics pageTracker._trackPageview function with +path+.
            #
            # Examples:
            #
            #
            #  # Triggers: pageTracker._trackPageview('/contact_requests/thanks');
            #  page.track_page_view '/contact_requests/thanks'
            #
            def track_page_view(path)
             record "pageTracker._trackPageview('#{path}');"
            end
          end
        end
      end
    end
  end

This will allow us to do the following:

  page.track_page_view "/contact_requests/thanks"

  # or using a route/path
  page.track_page_view thanks_contact_requests_path

So, our updated code now looks like:

render :update do |page|
  page.replace :x_mini_contact_form_module, :partial => 'mini_contact_form_thanks'
  page.track_page_view thanks_contact_requests_path
end

With this in place, we can sprinkle similar code for our various conversion points that are Ajax-driven and Google Analytics will pick it up.

Happy tracking!

The 8-Hour Rails Code Audit

Posted by Tue, 20 Oct 2009 11:13:00 GMT

While our team is typically focused on larger client and internal projects, we do get an opportunity to assist businesses on a much smaller scale. Whether this be through retainer-based consulting or through code audits, we have seen a lot of Ruby on Rails code over what has nearly been… five years!? We’ve been able to compile a fairly extensive checklist that we use in our code audit process that we’ve decided to streamline it into a smaller product.

Historically, this service has ranged anywhere from $2000-6000, depending the size and scope of the projects, but we want to help smaller startups1 and projects outline a roadmap for how they can begin to refactor and optimize their existing code base so that they can be more efficient at the start of 2010. So, we’ve scaled things down into an extremely affordable flat-rate package where we work off of a pre-defined number of hours.[2]

Through the end of 2009, we’re now offering the 8-Hour Rails Code Audit package for just $1000 USD (details).

We’re currently limiting this service to just two projects per week, so reserve your spot now.

1 Larger projects are welcome to benefit from this service and custom quotes are available upon request.

2 As always, we’re happy to discuss longer engagements.

Related Posts

Oh My Zsh gets an auto-updater

Posted by Thu, 01 Oct 2009 01:21:00 GMT

I wanted to publically thank everyone for helping me get Oh My Zsh out there and continue to improve it. Many of us spend a lot of time in our terminals throughout the day and I firmly believe that having a well-working shell is nearly as important as having a well-working texteditor.

While Oh My Zsh isn’t a large project, it is my attempt to share what I’ve learned about using zsh with others… but honestly, my goal is to learn from you. I don’t have a lot of time to really dive into the deepend of the zsh-pool so am relying on others to share their tricks, hacks, functions, themes, etc. So, I thought that if I created a basic framework with outlined some conventions so that others could contribute, that perhaps I’d end up with a kickass shell.

So far… Oh My Zsh has been forked on github 25 times and is being watched by over 100 people.

Last week, I pushed out an update that introduces an auto-update feature. I’m quite keen of desktop applications that can auto-update themselves, so our initial version of this feature will ask you no more than once a week if you want to check for updates. This means that as we continue to extend and improve Oh My Zsh, you can keep up-to-date.

Terminal 2014 zsh
Uploaded with plasq’s Skitch!

It’s the beginning of a new month… are you still using Bash? Perhaps you’re using your own zsh configuration but want to see what else zsh can offer you? I invite you to install Oh My Zsh today. :-)

Just run this in your terminal and you’ll get setup. Don’t worry… you won’t lose your existing configuration. :-)

wget http://github.com/robbyrussell/oh-my-zsh/raw/master/tools/install.sh -O - | sh

For more infromation, visit http://github.com/robbyrussell/oh-my-zsh/

Planting the seeds

Posted by Sat, 05 Sep 2009 12:00:00 GMT

Yesterday, the Rails team released 2.3.4, which includes standardized way for loading seed data into your application so that you didn’t have to clutter your database migrations.

I noticed a few comments on some blogs where people were asking how to use this new feature, so here is a quick runthrough a few ways that you can use it.

Populating Seed Data Approaches

The db/seeds.rb file is your playground. We’ve been evolving our seed file on a new project and it’s been great at allowing us to populate a really large data. Here are a few approaches that we’ve taken to diversify our data so that when we’re working on UI, we can have some diversified content.

Basic example

Any code that add to db/seeds.rb is going to executed when you run rake db:seed. You can do something as simple as:

# db/seeds.rb

Article.create(:title => 'My article title', :body => 'Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit')

Just create database records like you would in your Rails application or in script/console. Simple enough, right? Let’s play with a few other approaches that we’ve begun to use.

Use the names of real people

We’re using the Octopi gem to connect to github, collect all the names of people that follow me there, and using their names to seed our development database.

@robby_on_github = Octopi::User.find('robbyrussell')

# add a bunch of semi-real users
@robby_on_github.followers.each do |follower|
  github_person = Octopi::User.find(follower)
  next if github_person.name.nil?

  # split their name in half... good enough (like the goonies)
  first_name = github_person.name.split(' ')[0]
  last_name = github_person.name.split(' ')[1]
  new_person = Person.create(:first_name => first_name, :last_name => last_name, :email => Faker::Internet.email,
                             :password => 'secret', :password_confirmation => 'secret',
                             :github_username => follower, :website_url => github_person.blog)
  # ...
end

We do this with a few sources (twitter, github, etc..) to pull in the names of real people. If you want to be part of my seed data, you might consider following me on Github. ;-)

Use Faker for Fake data

You may have noticed in the previous code sample, that I used Faker in that code. We are using this a bunch in our seed data file. With Faker, you can generate a ton of fake data really easy.

person.links.create(:title => Faker::Lorem.words(rand(7)+1).join(' ').capitalize,
                    :url => "http://#{Faker::Internet.domain_name}/",
                    :description => Faker::Lorem.sentences(rand(4)+1).join(' '))

We might toss something like that into a method so that we can do the following:

@people = Person.find(:all)

500.times do
  generate_link_for(@people.sort_by{rand}[0])
end

...and we’ll get 500 links added randomly across all of the people we added to our system. You can get fairly creative here.

For example, we might even wanted random amounts of comments added to our links.

def generate_link_for(person)
  link = person.links.create(:title => Faker::Lorem.words(rand(7)+1).join(' ').capitalize,
                             :url => "http://#{Faker::Internet.domain_name}/",
                             :description => Faker::Lorem.sentences(rand(4)+1).join(' '))

  # let's randomly add some comments...
  if link.valid?
    rand(5).times do
      link.comments.create(:person_id => @people.sort_by{rand}[0].id,
                           :body => Faker::Lorem.paragraph(rand(3)+1))
    end
  end
end

It’s not beautiful, but it gets the job done. It makes navigating around the application really easy so that we aren’t having to constantly input new data all the time. As mentioned, it really helps when we’re working on the UI.

Your ideas?

We’re trying a handful of various approaches to seed our database. If you have some fun ways of populating your development database with data, we’d love to hear about it.

Oh My Zsh gets theme support

Posted by Mon, 31 Aug 2009 14:00:00 GMT

I just pushed a small change to Oh My Zsh, which gives it rudimentary support for themes. What I’m hoping to do is collect prompts from tons of people and make it simple for others to find a PROMPT that works well for them.

robbyrussell's oh-my-zsh at 2c9f74b5c3f6910e7c66601008e9ddd0444b70c7 - GitHub

As of right now, there are only three for you to choose from. So, please head over to github, fork Oh My Zsh, add your theme, and send a pull request. :-)

zsh /Users/robbyrussell/Projects/development/planetargon/brainstorm 2014 zsh

Once I get it merged in, we’ll get a screenshot of it added to the Oh My Zsh wiki. (see themes)

I know that many of you have some really sweet prompts configured as I got a lot of response with my post, Show me your and I’ll show you mine.

..and on the seventh day, Science created zsh

Posted by Mon, 31 Aug 2009 00:08:00 GMT

Inspired by some recent posts from Tom on zsh, I decided that I’d do my part to help people give it a whirl. I’ve been using zsh for a few years now and haven’t found myself missing bash.

If you’re interested in taking a few minutes to give zsh a while, you’re in luck. I recently reorganized all of my zsh config into a package and tossed it on github to share. My goal was to create a reusable tool that would allow people to get up and running quickly with some of the fun configuration that I’ve come to rely on on a daily basis.

For example:

  • Auto-complete rake and capistrano tasks
  • Git branch names when you’re in a git project directory structure
  • Tons of color highlighting (grep, git, etc.)
  • Sexy prompts.. (so say me)
  • much much more…

I invite you to give Oh My Zsh a whirl, which should take you less than a minute. Just follow the instructions.

Also, Oh My Zsh is Snow Leopard compatible. ;-)

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